I walked away with a PR of 4:09:42. Which is great, but I am disappointed because I believe I have it in me to run a faster marathon.
I was feeling a bit stressed before this race. My stomach was really bad Friday evening on our flight to Chicago. Then on Saturday my iPod mysteriously disappeared from the table I left it on in the hotel room. (Neil and Bryan went into crisis control mode and bought me a new one and made me a playlist).
At around 2:30 am I woke up from a race-related nightmare and couldn’t really fall back asleep. I got up at 5 am and went through my pre-race routine. Coffee, eat, dress, bathroom. I met my friends Kelaine and Gosha in the hotel lobby and we walked over to the course. (Staying at a hotel walking distance from the start line = awesome). I found the 3:50 pace group and talked with my fellow runners. Before I knew it, we were off.
I have mixed feelings about running with the pace group. For the first 5 miles I was only concerned with keeping the 3:50 sign in view. On the one hand, this got me through the crowded start at goal pace, or slightly faster than goal pace. I also hardly looked at my Garmin. On the other hand, I never got any adrenalin from the crowds because I was so focused on keeping up with them. I also know that for my training runs, I do a lot better (mentally) starting slow and picking up the pace. I think, for me, this would have been a smarter plan. But maybe I would not have been able to speed up during the second half even if I had started slower. Who knows?
At mile 7 I had to stop and fix my shoe. I already felt like something was wrong with me. I didn’t have the usual race day adrenalin and my legs felt heavy. I thought to myself, just make it to mile 12 where Neil, Melissa and Bryan would be and that would boost my mood.
It was also much hotter than I had anticipated. By mile 9 I decided to stop at water stops and dump water on my head. I was wearing my Camelbak and didn’t think I would need to stop so early. While the Chicago Marathon course is gorgeous, it is mostly unshaded. The heat just got worse as I kept running. I saw my cheering squad at mile 11, which was an awesome pick-me-up.
I knew my pace was dropping and I wasn’t in for a 3:50 finish. I crossed the half at 1:58 and thought I could maybe get a sub-four race still, but I continued to slow down as the race went on. For the first time since I’ve started training for marathons I wasn’t sure if I could finish. It wasn’t until I hit mile 18 that I knew I would finish, some way or somehow. At this point, my feet had started hurting too (discovered worst blisters ever post-race) but I knew I had just over an hour or so of running.
I saw my cheering squad again around mile 21-22.
I dug deep and picked up the pace to cross the line at 4:09:42.
I, of course, am very happy to have a new PR. But at the same time, I know I can do better than this and I’m not sure why I missed my goal. After talking to several runners after the race, including my friends, it seems like everyone was slowed down a good twenty minutes by the heat. While that makes me feel better about it, I’ve learned some lessons about this race and training cycle that will hopefully help me in the next marathon.
Lesson two – Nineteen weeks is too long for a training cycle. I can’t help but think I peaked a month too early. I also started feeling training burnout and was less excited for the race. Is this the reason I never got much race day adrenalin?
Lesson three – It is time for me to take a break from races where I put pressure on myself to hit a certain time goal. Between this and the National Half Marathon, I’m letting myself feel disappointed when I should realize that running either of those distances (in a still respectable speed) is an accomplishment on my own.
I also have been battling self doubt because of my training plan. I’m not sure if readers realize, but ever since the stress fracture I only run 3x a week. After reading some articles about getting faster through more mileage, I think it’s time to get over my injury fear and start running more. I don’t know if this will help for the next race, but I can’t let fear of injury hold me back from pushing myself to the next level.
If you’ve made it through this long blog post, I’d like to give you a huge thank you. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, or left encouraging comments here, through twitter, text message or email. It honestly helped me push through when I wanted to give up yesterday.
A huge thank you to Melissa and Bryan who came all the way from Milwaukee and made this awesome sign. Not only were they awesome spectators but Bryan made me a new playlist when I was about to break into a temper tantrum.
And thank you to Neil. I often think to myself that I couldn’t finish races without his support. But this race he really carried me across the finish line.